Virtual travel hub in the offing

Linbert Travel Exchange Pte Ltd and Vacation Asia Holdings (S) Pte Ltd announced that they will be coming together to form what they claim to be Asia's first travel e-distribution and e-procurement hub.

A new e-travel hub promises to simplify the distribution process of travel products and information from suppliers to travel agencies.

SINGAPORE - Linbert Travel Exchange Pte Ltd, an e-distributor of travel products, and Vacation Asia Holdings (S) Pte Ltd, a wholesaler and regional inbound travel group, announced that they will be coming together to form what they claim to be Asia's first travel e-distribution and e-procurement hub.

Linbert's online reservation and fulfilment engine, the SPY Reservation System, will be deployed to facilitate transactions by providing real-time updates on bookings, products, prices and availability.

The merger will create a virtual distribution and procurement platform which will help leisure travel product suppliers reach out to geographically dispersed retail travel agencies around the world.

The merged entity will focus on providing B2B services for the non-air leisure travel market. Dr Kenny Goh, director of Linbert, said that travel trends are shifting towards Free Independent Travelers (FITs). The increasing demand towards more customised travel itineraries means that retail travel agencies have to spend more resources to meet customers' requirements, while leisure travel product suppliers have to seek out more cost-effective distribution channels.

Goh said that the new e-travel hub will enable retail travel agencies to book leisure travel products, such as accommodation, transfers and sight-seeing in various destinations, online for their customers.

Dato Gan Eng Kwong, director of Vacation Asia, added that should there be a demand for a destination or travel product not listed at their hub, they will respond to the customer demand as soon as possible.

Tan declined to reveal the number of cities the hub covers, saying that it suffices to say that it covers "most of the major cities".

The merger will result in a combined base of more than 3,000 global retail agents and over 10,000 products worldwide, thereby creating the critical mass needed to reap economies of scale.

Users can look forward to greater operational efficiencies, easier management of a diversified range of products and the opportunity to reach out to the global travel market, Linbert and Vacation Asia claimed.

With existing business in hand exceeding S$50 million per year, the merger is expected to grow exponentially by 30 percent to 50 percent annually over the next three years. The merger is expected to be profitable by second-half of year 2001.

When questioned about listing plans, Tan Aik Hong, president, Linbert, said that the merged entity will probably list "some time next year".

The merged entity will seek out further opportunities to participate in cross-selling through tie-ups with partners in other regional markets. While initially concentrating on the Asia Pacific region, there are plans to expand operations through strategic alliances with key partners in Europe and North America to deepen and widen the range of products that will be offered through this platform.

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